SAK Rebuilt - Progress Report 19
By mid-January 2007, as seen in last progress report (18), the SAK tracklaying was sufficiently far advanced from both directions that there was less than a mile separating the ends with only a few minor gaps to be filled elsewhere. Given the speed with which this was happening I was keen to keep checking up on a regular basis, but this was a problem in winter as I am busy at weekends, go to work in near darkness, and return home in total darkness!
However seeing tracklaying in Alloa is a powerful lure, so on Saturday 27/1/07, ten days after I filmed the camcorder footage from which the last progress report was captured, I set out to see what was going on. Not for the first time, I was due to go a pick up a friend that day, but I had a quick look at what was going on first, and what I found was so interesting, I was easily able to talk my friend into coming back for a much longer look!
1. On this occasion I started at the first road overbridge east of Alloa
West Junction, which was almost where the
track had been laid to 10 days before. Looking east shows, perhaps
surprisingly, that track hasn't yet been laid immediately eastwards of this
2. ... but zooming in shows that sleepers are being laid from the other
3. I crossed the road and had a look westward and found a road-rail
machine picking up a bundle of sleepers from a sizeable stockpile,
doubtless ferried up by a machine like this using the newly laid
4. I moved round to the next bridge, and at once pointed the camera
eastwards to get a good view of the ongoing tracklaying. Clearly
track is being laid westward from the original Alloa station site,
perhaps to make it easier for a machine to ferry sleeper bundles
from the stockpile along an unimpeded trackbed.
5. Zooming in shows that the track goes out of sight, which means that
at a minimum it goes most of the way to the Alloa station bridge. The
S-bend is due to the trackbed retained by BR being the original
westbound track through the station platform, although the reverse
curve seen here is a lot smoother than the old westbound track used to be!
6. Looking westwards reveals that the next bundle of sleepers has almost
caught me up! Time to move down another bridge?
7. Looking at the new tracklaying from the Mar Place bridge doesn't add much,
but is an interesting view nonetheless. It looks like sleepers are being
prepared for the whole length of the next sections of welded rail, after
which the rails will be lifted in and fastened down. It's less spectacular
than using the tracklayer that laid the eatern section of the SAK, but this
method seems to be how about two-thirds of the SAK will have been laid once
all the track is down!
8. Crossing the road, and zooming out a bit shows that the new track ends (or
starts!) just this side of the Alloa Station Bridge.
9. A view from a slightly different angle shows that, being freshly laid, the
track isn't forming a perfect curve as yet. There will be time enough to deal
with that during the ballasting & tamping work though.
10. Moving on to the old Waggonway bridge, I was able to see that the trackbed
under the station bridge now has a flat bed of ballast, suggesting that it is
now ready for tracklaying. However the ballast soon runs out, and work is still
being done on the section underneath where I was standing.
11. In the other direction however the bed of ballast resumes and is now about
half-way down the new station platform face. This picture doesn't show much detail
of the white substance beyond...
12. ...but the zoom view shows more clearly that it is a white 'membrane'
that is being put down under the bed of ballast to (I think) discourage weeds
from growing. Beyond it is the end of the track laid into Alloa from the east
- not too far to go to make the ends meet, at least in terms of distance!
13. Swinging round shows that the future station car park is still a worksite
with big heaps of both removed spoil (earth and weeds), and new ballast.
The articulated site tipper about to be loaded with ballast
was one of several that were at work...
14. ...with another visible a few seconds later tipping ballast onto the
membrane. A bulldozer towing a roller is ready to spread and then flatten
the ballast to form a level trackbed.
15. I turned round for a look in the other direction, and moved sideways
to get a better look at the work going on to prepare the trackbed at what
was once 'Alloa East Junction'. It doesn't look like there is much left
to do before laying the membrane and the bed of ballast. Since time was
slightly against me, I left at this point, and after stopping off briefly
at Hilton Road level-crossing (where nothing had changed in the previous
10 days), I headed off to pick up my friend.
16. It was early afternoon when we returned to Alloa and after having already
seen where the work was being done chose to start at in the middle of the
three overbridges between (the old) Alloa station and Alloa West Junction.
And there was indeed something to see, as the missing section of track had
now had the rails lifted on
17. Zooming in reveals that work is ongoing to get a 'perfect fit' between the
rail ends. The rails don't seem to have been fastened to the sleepers yet, but
that probably isn't practical until the rails are cut to length and sitting in
the right place.
18. Looking the other way shows that much the same is going on at the other end
of these rails...
19. ...and zooming in shows more detail. We watched these workers for a few
20. ...until the rail was cut and was a good fit! Meanwhile in the
21. ...one rail was already cut to fit and the other was being worked on. I
don't know exactly how long it takes to fasten the rail to the sleepers
but clearly the western tracklaying would soon be continuous right through
to the middle of Alloa!
22. Having caught up with several hours of work in the cutting at the west
end of town, our next move was obviously to see if progress had been as good
in the vicinity of the old and new station sites. Looking west from the
Waggonway bridge doesn't show much change since my visit earlier...
23. ...but there is now a complete covering of ballast on the trackbed opposite
the new station platform, although the filling and leveling work wasn't
24. The nearby pile of ballast is noticeably smaller, although there is still
25. I then took a closer look at the ongoing work to prepare the trackbed for
ballast to be spread on it, and this view shows that there was a hole to be
filled in, using material supplied by tipper. A bulldozer sits ready!
26. There were actually several bulldozers at work simultaneously here, of at
least two different designs, and two of them managed to get in each others
way a few minutes later! The nearer one (which stopped to let the other go by)
is towing a 'powered roller' which has an engine mounted on it to vibrate
the roller to compact the surface better.
27. Keeping track of all this activity was not all that easy, because if I
watched any interesting activity on one side of the bridge I was in danger of
missing something happening on the other side. So it took me a while to notice
a digger positioning itself at the east end of the platform. The slight sideways
angle the bulldozer is sitting at gives away what isn't otherwise obvious -
more ballast is needed right along the platform face to level up the trackbed...
28. ...which naturally showed up while my back was turned...
29. ..watching this digger working on the edges of the trackbed
right at the Waggonway bridge. The driver of this machine wasn't finding
it easy as a bucket on an arm like this is best used parallel or at right
angles to the edge being dug, neither of which was practicable here!
30. A little while later, after having spread tipperload after tipperload
of ballast right down the edge of the new platform face, the bulldozer
went and fetched a spare roller...
31. ...and started compacting the newly spread ballast. Meanwhile the digger
is now working right under the bridge and in this view is putting spoil into
a waiting tipper, which was parked almost out of sight under the bridge.
32. Of course one of the reasons my friend and I were standing on a bridge
in the middle of Alloa on a chilly January day was in the hope of seeing
the last of the old trackbed through Alloa disappear under fresh ballast
and things got nearer to that when two of the workmen started unrolling
more of the white membrane.
33. As if all this activity wasn't enough, a road-rail machine showed up
at the other side of the station bridge with a trolley of concrete
sleepers! Based on the SAK tracklaying so far, these could belong to
34. Meanwhile white mebrane was being rolled out under the waggonway
35. ...and ballast is being delivered to a bulldozer on the other
side of the bridge.
36. Finally the membrane is rolled out over the entire unballasted
trackbed, and it's time to SHOVE!
37. Spread ballast...
38. ...tip more ballast...
39. ...spread more ballast...
40. ...tip even more ballast...
41. ...spread & tip ballast at the same time... ! It might look like I
am making light of a lot of work, but honestly the spreading work in
the last few pictures didn't take long as the machines were
42. Skipping forward a few minutes, the remaining section of unballasted
trackbed is now quite small...
43. ...is getting smaller...
44. ...and after a fresh ballast delivery shrinks rapidly...
45. ...and is now completely covered. Job done!
Having see another milestone in the SAK reconstruction reached, it was time to think of other things. Like returning to the car and running the heater full blast for a start! My friend and I, as well as being railway enthusiasts/preservationists, are also plant enthusiasts/preservationists as well (which is why we stood watching all this on a chilly day in wniter!), but enough was enough!
Of course some further spreading and leveling of the trackbed might be required before track could be laid, but that obviously wouldn't take very long, and I was well aware that I would have to come back very soon indeed or I might miss the final work to complete a continuous track through Alloa. But as mentioned at the start of this report, I am normally at work during daylight hours on weekdays in January, and couldn't possibly take leave on such short notice, so how could I possibly get to Alloa to check? But I did! However that's a story for the next progress report!
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